Learn what to do immediately following a slip and fall accident. Protect your rights and maximize your injury compensation payout.
Slip and fall accidents happen fast, with little or no warning.
Injury victims can be confused and upset when they suddenly get hurt. Our minds are rarely calm after an abrupt fall, and emotions can get in the way of our practical side.
Despite these natural reactions, try to push past the stress of a slip and fall. Stay still, and think about your plan of action.
What you say and do in the next ten minutes can make or break an injury claim. Focus on specific acts you need to accomplish to protect your health and your right to injury compensation.
We’ve put together a helpful list of “must-do” actions to take after a slip and fall injury, and some mistakes to avoid.
Knowing what to do in the first ten minutes after a fall can ultimately boost the compensation you can recover through an insurance claim or lawsuit.
The First Ten Minutes: What to Do
Spend the first minutes after a slip and fall catching your breath and implementing your plan of action. If emergency responders want to take you to the hospital, go with them. If your injuries are less serious, try to work through the following steps:
- Ask for help. If you need an ambulance, avoid moving and make the call using your mobile phone. If you can’t safely call, ask someone else to do it for you. Ask someone individually to call for help, rather than shouting out for help to a crowd.
- Get medical attention. If you’re not treated at the scene, seek same-day medical attention. Tell your medical provider exactly when, where, and how you were injured.
- Report the accident. If possible, report the fall to the property owner or manager before you leave the location.
- Describe the accident completely. Tell the property owner or manager exactly how you fell and were injured. Don’t make assumptions, exaggerate, or fill in details you’re not certain about.
- Refuse to sign waivers. Never sign any agreements or waivers that staff may give you after an accident. You might be signing away your right to file a personal injury claim.
- Take pictures. Look around the location of your injury. Take pictures of the place where you fell and the surrounding area. Photographs and video can establish the cause of the accident, and are convincing evidence of the property owner’s liability.
- Gather direct witnesses. Get the contact information for anyone who saw you slip and fall. Try to get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses.
- Record and document. Write down what you remember about the incident while it’s fresh in your mind. Write down what you were doing before, during, and after you fell. You can make notes on your phone shortly after the fall, and write it all out later.
- Preserve clothing and other evidence. Keep the clothing you were wearing during the accident and anything you were carrying. Bloodied or torn clothing, broken eyeglasses, and other damaged personal items help provide evidence of the seriousness of an injury and your pain and suffering.
- Look for circumstantial evidence. This includes witnesses who didn’t see you fall but may have something to say about the surrounding area and conditions. Other indirect evidence might be building code violations, a history of incident reports like yours, or prior complaints about the hazard that caused your fall.
Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence
There are two types of evidence in personal injury cases – direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence is evidence of a fact based on a witness’s personal observation of that fact. An example is when a witness personally sees another customer slip and fall on a water puddle in the produce aisle.
Direct evidence, on its own, can convince a judge or jury of the cause of an accident.
Circumstantial evidence requires some reasoning to make a connection between the evidence and what the evidence is trying to prove.
Circumstantial evidence includes testimony from a clerk who admits the mister in the produce department had been leaking for several days before a customer slipped and fell on a puddle of water.
A judge or jury might be able to use this evidence to say that the grocery store should have known the leaking mister was a safety hazard. The store had plenty of time to fix the mister or cordon off the area before the customer slipped and fell.
Circumstantial evidence is less convincing than direct evidence. However, both types are important and can be very powerful when used together.
The First Ten Minutes: What Not to Do
- Don’t make excuses. Don’t say “I should have watched where I was going,” or “These darn shoes,” or even, “I’m fine.” Your comments after a slip and fall might be used against you. The shock and embarrassment of falling in public can hide the extent of your injuries.
- Don’t lose your temper. As long as you stay calm, you can look after your own best interests. If you become angry or insulting, the property owner or management are more likely to become defensive or argumentative.
- Don’t sign away your rights. While you should cooperate with the reporting procedures of the place where your slip and fall happened, don’t sign anything.
- Don’t talk to witnesses about the accident. While gathering witness information, you want to establish that they saw something useful. However, it could weaken the value of their testimony if you get into an in-depth conversation with a potential witness about your slip and fall.
- Don’t threaten a lawsuit. Threatening a lawsuit or other belligerent behavior within minutes of a slip and fall will lower your credibility with the insurance company. Credible injury victims are calm and confident, and get higher compensation because the adjuster knows they’ll make a good impression in court.
It’s Not Too Late to Take Action
If you or your loved one were severely injured in a slip and fall, don’t try to handle the case on your own.
Severe slip and fall injuries should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to maximize compensation for the injured victim and their family.
Maybe you didn’t realize you were injured, or you were so embarrassed after falling that you got up and left without talking to anyone.
All is not lost. If you had a slip and fall accident, and you didn’t follow all the recommended “to-do” steps, there are still some things you can do to help your case.
- If you haven’t sought medical attention, see your primary care provider or go to urgent care right away. Be sure to describe the cause of your injuries to your medical care professionals. You must link proof of your injuries to the slip and fall.
- If you received medical care but didn’t keep the paperwork, request copies of your medical records from every medical care provider who treated you, including the ambulance service.
- If you haven’t reported the incident to the property owner, do it now. You can use this sample notification letter to the at-fault party.
- If you didn’t take photographs when you fell, and it’s a public space, you can go back. Take as many photographs as you can. Be careful to label and date your photographs. It won’t help your claim if there’s confusion about when the photographs were taken.
- If you didn’t gather witness information at the time of the slip and fall, it still may be possible to find witnesses. Examining any photographs you took at the time may help with this step.
- If you failed to write down your account of the accident, do it before any more time passes. Be thorough, but don’t add details you’re not certain about. Use all the information available to you to ensure your account is as accurate as possible.
Immediate Action Means More Money
What you do and say in the first minutes following a slip and fall injury can directly impact the amount of compensation you may recover.
Immediate medical attention, prompt reporting, and strong evidence are vitally important for a successful injury claim.
The insurance adjuster won’t give you the time of day unless you can prove the insured’s negligence caused your injuries. The more steps that you follow, the stronger your position will be.
For severe or complicated injury claims, you’ll need a personal injury attorney for the best outcome. Your attorney can go after evidence that you wouldn’t be able to easily get on your own. For example, your attorney can issue a subpoena to force a store to hand over surveillance camera footage taken on the day you fell.
You’ll also need an attorney if the insurance company tries to blame you for the incident. In some states, your claim can be denied if the adjuster says you contributed as little as 1 percent of fault to the circumstances surrounding your injuries.
Don’t settle for less. Most personal injury attorneys don’t charge potential clients for their first consultation.
Gather your injury-related paperwork and get the legal help you need. There no cost or obligation to find out what a good attorney can do for you.
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